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Point of View: Sustainability requires industry action

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Mike Boots
June 01, 2007

When it comes to the issue of global sustainable seafood, this industry finds itself at a significant turning point. There is a growing trend worldwide toward seafood sustainability, and companies are beginning to notice and take action.

We've certainly seen more energy directed at this issue in the last couple of years. The seriousness of sustainability is hitting home and we are seeing an increasingly united front by industry, scientists, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and consumers to turn the tide. We can achieve a turnaround, but we need the movement to extend to all stakeholders and all behaviors, not just locally but internationally.

Most of the focus has been on wild fisheries, but we also have to address challenging questions about farmed fish. There can be little doubt that farmed fish will play an important role in a sustainable marketplace. But the aquaculture industry will likely experience some uncomfortable change before a clean, economic and fair industry evolves.

We need to ask ourselves, what is the goal? Is it healthier fish populations, or ecosystems? And what about fossil fuels used by trawlers and processors, or the distance "sustainable" fish is transported? The questions are endless, because, of course, regional economies are inextricably linked.

Seafood is particularly complex because of its exceptional international activity. This is good news, for it means that individual corporate actions, no matter how large or small, can create a ripple effect of positive change across the supply chain. Here are three ways you can incorporate conservation into your business:

1. Engage yourself, your employees and other players in the supply chain. Know where to get information and how to distribute/communicate it, and keep it up to date. Very likely, this means exploring sources outside your traditional channels.

2. Step back from your operation and benchmark your products. What immediate positive action can be taken? What medium and longer-term change can be s t arted? Start small, then expand on that initial action.

3. Set sustainability goals and a realistic time frame to succeed. Be clear from the outset what you want to achieve and the likely impacts that goal will have on both your business and your supply chains. To achieve real buy-in and change, invite employees and other stakeholders to collaborate and participate in the change process with you.

Seeing green and staying in the black means ensuring a lasting and diverse supply of seafood and a robust marine environment. It's everyone's responsibility, but it goes beyond the steps an individual company can take.

What the seafood industry really needs is not marketing councils, but action councils - individuals and companies coming together to provide the necessary incentives to make meaningful change. It is no longer enough to decide which products to buy; we also need to invest in improving their capture, production and transport.


Mike Boots is director of the Seafood Choices Alliance, a global association for sustainable seafood, online at 



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